The complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) article by Drs Ernst and Cohen1 in the October 22, 2001, issue of the ARCHIVES covered an important issue for physicians practicing CAM but did not differentiate between complementary and alternative medicine. The terms complementary and alternative are not synonymous and need to be distinguished and clarified during the informed consent process. Physicians need to inform patients whether they are being offered complementary medicine or alternative medicine. In complementary medicine, nonallopathic treatments are given in addition to the standard treatment. An example of the complementary approach is the use of acupuncture to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy. This approach allows physicians to follow the standard of care and offer nonallopathic treatment at the same time.
Kim Y", Lichtenstein G, Waalen J. Distinguishing Complementary Medicine From Alternative Medicine. Arch Intern Med. 2002;162(8):943. doi: